From My WindowIssue Date: October 25, 2017
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
Since I am retired, I get the privilege of spending one day a week with my granddaughter while her parents are at work. Having a whole day with her alone is different than "sharing" her at larger gatherings or when her parents are present; it means I get a lot of her attention, and she gets all of mine.
My first full day with her was a little stressful, I have to admit. It's been a long time since I was fully in charge of a small human, and some of my baby-handling skills needed to be refreshed. But it came back quickly, luckily. Having these large blocks of time on a regularly scheduled basis means I can fully appreciate how fast she is changing. Nearly every time I visit, she's acquired an additional skill. New, charming vocalizations every week; better eye-hand coordination; and increasing social interaction mean no two babysitting days are ever the same.
At first, she was happy to be held and rocked, and I sat for many hours enjoying having her in my arms. But now, at six months, she wants to keep busy " playing on the floor; reading books; going outside in her stroller, and watching her dog, her cats and her three chickens. (She's an animal lover, just like Grandma. And while she is her Mom's "mini-me" in her looks, her relentless energy reminds me a lot of her father's when he was a baby.) She's stretching and growing her muscles and her brain all the time, until the need for a nap becomes so great she can't continue to fight to stay awake, try as she will. And when she finally goes down briefly in her crib, I am only too happy to put my own feet up for a few minutes! The truth is, Grandma likes naps a lot more than Baby B does.
And that makes me think, with respect and awe, about all those grandparents who are raising grandchildren, for various sad reasons. A heartfelt salute to each and every one of you, God bless you. I can't even imagine being a full time "parent" at my age. And a salute to all parents of "multiples" as well " twins have got to be twice as exhausting as singles.
One of the bigger challenges for me was mastering all the "baby devices." I remember my own mother coming over to babysit and getting training on our car seats, high chair and stroller. Now it's my turn, with the car seats a lot more complex (and safer) than they were when my kids were small. The stroller pushes like a dream, but you need an engineering degree to set it up. Then there's the baby monitors, bottle cleaning systems, various play time seats and white noise generators " all wonderful innovations, but each a challenge for a stone-age woman like me.
I call the baby-toting and play devices "baby docking stations." They are critically important, since as fascinated as grandma is with Baby B, occasionally I must leave her side for a few minutes.
While I was watching her at play, I started thinking about what it would have been like for a Native American mother in the pre-European contact times to rear her child. Keeping an infant warm in a teepee or hogan would have been a challenge in the winter. There were no diapers as we know them " no plastic pants, no baby wipes and certainly no automatic washer. Imagine dealing with this hygiene problem back in those days. No easy way, or soap, for caretakers to clean the baby or themselves. And when that baby became ill, as most of them certainly did, none of the wonderful medical support we enjoy now. It is well-documented that infant mortality was sky-high in the indigenous people's world before the Europeans arrived in the U.S., much as it still among primitive and uncontacted tribes across the globe today. Even the serious illness of a nursing mother, or her death, would doom the infant.
It is amazing what well-thought out foods, clothing, diapers and safety-related baby gear are available to us now. Medical resources schedule early detection tests, and most U.S. infants receive vaccinations that have nearly wiped out diseases that used to maim and claim babies, like polio.
Baby B is fortunate, indeed, to have been born when and where she was. But the most important ingredients for a happy, healthy, baby have not changed. A baby needs a safe and clean environment, and caring adults to watch over them and love them. So on those days when I can't figure out how to operate one of those baby docking stations, I just grab some books and read; or sing nursery rhymes. This tech-challenged grandma has both a lot of love to give, and a lot of time. Most people who are grandparents absolutely love their grandchildren, and love being needed by them and their parents. In the great circle of life, the nurturing given to a grandchild is the "paying it forward" that a grandparent does to pay back for his or her own parent's care.
Happy Halloween to all Times readers. This holiday is the source of many wonderful memories from both my own childhood and that of my kids. Make it a time for a funny costume, some treats and the adventure of carving a pumpkin. Baby B will be attired as a chicken this year and I wouldn't miss it for the world.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
Recent stories, opinions and photos